The Merlot (2.26ha) was planted 1998 and 2000 with clone D3V14 (BV 114) on the best red clays on the property. As per the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Semillon, the Merlot was planted as cuttings in 1999, and grown organically from day 1, resulting in slower establishment but a stronger root system. Now fully established, the yield is around 5 tonnes per hectare.
Over the years, the Merlot has proven to be the most difficult of the red varieties to grow organically, with low shoot vigour, susceptibility to powdery mildew, tenderness to late frost, poor colour development and slow ripening. For this reason, much of the experimental work has been carried out on this variety.
Biodynamic Preparation 501: In 2004 a trial was conducted with the application of Horn Silica, a homeopathic preparation of finely ground silica crystals which is normally applied at sunrise as a fine mist, to stimulate photosynthesis and strengthen the cell walls. Due to a halt in the ripening of the Merlot, “501” was applied over three consecutive afternoons in mid March 2004, and when picked a week later the fruit had ripened at three times the usual rate. This resulted in Merlot at 15.5 baume, which is very ripe and excellent quality.
Mulch Trial: In the Spring of 2005 the NSW Department of Primary Industries began a two year trial of the use of composted urban green waste mulch, observing the effect on yield and quality of different application rates over areas of historically high and low yeild. First season results show that a heavy application of mulch increased the yield in the poorer areas by 25%.